Can the Islamic faith be reconciled with a contemporary sense of Britishness? Timothy Winter, a 54-year-old academic, theologian and Muslim convert known to his colleagues as Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad believes so and has established the Cambridge Muslim College to prove it.
The architectural equivalent of a priest’s collar, hymn book and afternoon tea, the early Victorian building that occupies 14 St Paul’s Road appears to be Anglicanism personified, as much a part of Cambridge’s heritage as its colleges, quads and gowns.
A closer inspection, however, reveals that not everything is quite as it seems in Unity House.
Since 2011, the 168-year-old building has served as the headquarters of the Cambridge Muslim College (CMC), a charity dedicated to training the next generation of the UK’s Islamic scholars, imams and religious leaders while enabling them to navigate the challenges, complexities and contradictions of life in one of the world’s most secular societies.
The college is part think tank, part seminary, part finishing school – created by its dean, Timothy Winter. The 54-year-old academic, writer and theologian is a Muslim convert known to his colleagues as Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad.
“The question of how Muslims relate to modern reality and to western reality is one of the topics of the age, not just for Muslims but for their neighbours as well,” Mr Murad says.
“What’s clear is that institutions need to be evolved where that interface can be explored as something exciting, creative and mutually enriching rather than just being a form of grudging mutual accommodation, which has been the model to date.”
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